Mozjoukine

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Stasikomödie
(2022)

Not really funny treatment of East Germany.
A good idea - maybe a couple, handled ham fistedly.

The opening traffic light routine is like the whole film, offering comic possibilities that never eventuate. Kross (BALLOON) is recruited into the secret police through whose ranks he rises and is planted as a spy to root out subversives among the malcontents squatting in a run down area. They are of course more appealing than the hero's colleagues and he finds himself involved with a couple of young women willing to get naked for him. Which one gets to be his wife of thirty years and what effect will the release of his coveted personal file have?

Another film (LE DOULEUR, DER PASFALSCHER) where the past has gone kaki.

Sa tête
(1929)

Atmospheric images carry medium legth silent French film.
Unclear narrative (the man with the model guillotine?) leaves the scene setting as the strongest element of this medium length narrative, the last of Epstein's silent shorts.

Starting with a tent show where the fakir reads cards and warns Ferté (La GLACE A TYROIS FACES), we get into the story of visiting his mother Perrot in rural Livilliers - stacking the hay, piglets. In the morning the gendarmes take him away arrested for the murder of the banker boss of his fiancée Dhélia (regular star of the films of Roudés).

Images of the fair with its blow up skirt side show attraction and night time lights, contrasts with the city traffic and parked bicycles, visible through the open bank door to make the piece a nice record of the time.

Generally well filmed, even with its group of out of focus close ups.

The copy on the Cinémathèque Française Henri site is sharp and runs at the right speed though it's captions are in French.

Revealer
(2022)

Well handled exploitation movie.
In 1989, the protestors outside The Revealers Bookstore & peep shows harass booth girl Caito Aase on her way in for a day performing for coin in the slot customers.

Manager Bishop Stevens still hasn't fixed the door. However this happens to be the day of the Apocalypse and Aase finds herself locked in the building with Shaina Schrooten, the protestor girl she exchanges insults with as she arrives, and menaced by yukky unclean (digital) spirits.

The two characters are given motivation. As she gets more covered in dirt and gore, Schrooten resents the humiliations being piled on her. "All my life I've lived as if he was watching." Their growing together is quite involving. Staging of the scary journey is passing convincing and till an ending which is a bit of a let down.

As exploitation fringe film making goes, this one shows quite a bit of skill. It's not hard to imagine those involved doing something more substantial.

El lodo
(2021)

Grim Spanish regional thriller.
Hopes of a tense crime piece drawing on a regional setting, on the model of MARSHLAND, are set up in the early stages of director Iñaki Sánchez' 2nd feature but elements like the Eco. Plot and remote, canal-rutted setting give way to familiar melodrama - the pill popping wife, dead child and swarthy, menacing locals who stand about while we wait for them to mutter "We don't like strangers here!"

Fresh from saving a wetland in Brazil, bearded agronomist Raúl Arévalo arrives at La Laguna Blanco where the water levels are dropping each year. Local matriarch Susi Sanchez tells him these are good people. (always a bad sign) We know the appealing dog, that we don't see enough of, is a goner and Arévalo's distrust of all those shot guns will prove justified.

Park Ranger Joaquín Climent, who is disturbingly tolerant of poachers, carries off the acting honors though spooky home help Susana Merino registers firmly enough to liven up the ending. The accomplished Roberto Alamo is wasted and Paz Vega, making the transition from glamorous to serious, just comes over as grating.

Drone shots of the terrain, driving the roads through its marshes and herons circling at dusk help but they'd be more effective if they were less murky.

Az aranyember
(1919)

Unrestrained melodrama from the WW1 Hungarian film.
THE MAN OF GOLD is said to be the one surviving Alex Korda Hungarian film. It was made at the end of the boom in local production caused by the country's isolation during hostilities and is notable more as an example of the work of those involved than an achievement.

Oscar Beregi, their leading actor, comes on in a curly wig which shifts when he clutches his brow and manages to exude some authority with clever bits of business like intimidating sword stick armed Jenõ Horváth while keeping his hands behind his back or covering Ica von Lenkeffy's eyes when his own guilt overwhelms him.

She would shortly be Emil Jannings' Desdemona. On hand is Lili Berky in excessive eye shadow. The cast also figure in the Michael Curtiz' Hungarian silents.

Plot has Captain Beregi aiding the escape of Pasha Gyula Szöreghy and his daughter Margit Makay across the Donau pursued by a canon firing Turkish Galley and villainous police spy Gábor Rajnay. The Pasha perishes when the boat sinks but Beregi manages to save his jewel box and deliver the girl to the family of Horvath & Mari K. Demjén. With the jewel box as incentive, they take her in but place her as a servant in the home, to the concern of their daughter Berky.

Beregi has intuited that the Pasha's real treasure is hidden in the star and sickle wheat sacks on the half sunken boat and, getting the rights to those, uses this wealth to become an influential officer.

He obtains the hand of Makay, though she is sought by Captain Gusztáv Vándory. However Beregi's affections are captured by island squatter family girl von Lenkeffy, who he protects from blackmailing now one eyed Rajnay, who will fall foul of the law and be condemned to the galleys.

All is not well in the Beregi home where he has taken in Berky and her mother who conspire to denounce him to Makay. However she remains loyal, despite the damning testimony of vengeful Ranjav.

All ends conveniently happily.

Though elaborately decorated, the film lacks the complex staging of the Cutiz films - one shot taken through an open door. It will appeal only to the curious.

The copy, which is claimed to be incomplete, is nicely restored with music and tinting and running at what appears to be the intended speed.

La piel en llamas
(2022)

Pretensious try for significance.
SKIN IN FLAMES is pretension at the movies run amok. You can tell what you're in for when we get the image of the naked black female Christ- figure earl on. The piece then develops through parallel (or are they) dialogues between celebrity photographer Jaenda and journalist for the emerging 3rd. World country's one surviving newspaper, Lidia Nené and pervert U. N. official Fernando Tejero and his black mistress Ella Kweku which for no particular reason end with them in the same space. The film is big on perverse detail.

The issue of photographers from wealthy countries exploiting their colonial subjects got a much better innings in movies around the 1983 mark - UNDER FIRE etc. In case we haven't got it, the shot of the naked Vietnamese girl running with napalm burns is included in the material projected on the characters half way through.

This one is nasty, exploitative and awkward - a bad combination.

Madeleine Collins
(2021)

This Virginie Efira vehicle is an overwrought glossy Euro-weepy.
English speaking writer-director Antoine Barraud comes on like a film buff, saying he started reworking KRAMER vs KRAMER but the film shifted to The CAT PEOPLE & VERTIGO. Closer to the mark is the forties Bette Davis A DOUBLE LIFE which was re-tooled for Dolores de Rio as LA OTRA and picked up again by Davis as DEAD RINGERS with the left over Kramer V. Kramer elements occasionally visible here.

The opening sets the tone with Virginie Efira center of attention in an up market store choosing which outfit to spend her mum's cash gift on - torn between the one the money will cover and a super chic fishnet number. She collapses and staggers off. It really takes more clues to place the Efira we then see navigating between two families, one with well off music world husband Bruno Salomone who squires her to Valérie Donzelli recitals with their two boys and one with rugged Quim Gutiérrez whose daughter calls her "Mummy" while he takes on the odd jobs she finds him.

The arrangement is bound to come ungummed and that's what happens with people she met as one character showing up at the other lot's parties, a traffic cop running her in for a fake I. D. and Virginie's mum Jacqueline Bisset (!) and dad François Rostain on a visit that confuses them and ends with them flying her back to Salomone. We knew it was going to end in tears.

This one is long, complex and demanding and Efira is center screen for most of it. The two leading men are shadowed and attention shifts to the kids, the parents and shady forger Nadav Lapid when they come on. The technical work is polished and we can see a lot of money on the screen.

A few years back Efira was endearing when she appeared with Benoît Poelvoorde in FAMILLE A LOUER and Le GRAND BAIN but now carrying big movies herself, she is stretched.

Maison de retraite
(2022)

A try for warm hearted.
Engaging but finally soft centered account of screw-up orphan Adams, with a horror of old people confirmed by his run in with a mean shopping granny that gets him sentenced to Community service at the Maison de Mimosas retirement center, where he moves from antagonist to associate of the oldies exploited by a crooked manager.

Multi skilling Adams manages to engage but Depardieu takes over the piece's focus and without him it loses momentum. Mylène Demongeot who we remember as a teenager and as Steve Reeves' love interest!

Nice performances and OK look with the designer of Depardieu's CYRANO participating.

Barriera a Settentrione
(1950)

Cops and robbers in the Dolomites
This routine fifties thriller is an anti-climax to the silent mountaineering adventures Luis Trenker fronted for Arnold Fank and films under his own, earlier direction though, dubbed and visibly aged, he is still able to carry Ferzetti a few yards on his shoulders and do the action star moves of the final shoot out.

Trenker and the feather in hat lot are crossing the mountains with packages of watches and drugs. Bogus tourist cop Nazzari and his lieutenant Ferzetti, who Trenker has brought down from a mountain injury, are under cover in the Dolomites trying to catch murderous cocaine smugglers.

Gabriele sparks well turned out blonde hotel maid Hold, who the local gropes unsuccessfully, while Amadeo visits the chalet of the motorist city woman, actually an agent of the bald, mustached nasty, given to polishing his cigarette case on his sleeve.

The leads go on a climb together which is the most interesting element of the film though pallid stuff without the ice axes, avalanches and spiked boots of the earlier films. Their half-hearted bonding, after a climbing accident, doesn't stop Nazarri using his secret short wave radio, hidden in the hay barn to call in the armed troopers while Mareschale Urzo rounds out the city duo. The pursuit on the mountains develops into a battle between the light machine guns of the forces and the mountaineers' shot guns and side arms with fatal consequences.

There is a bit of sunny alpine scenery with goats foregrounding the peaks, which is closer to HEIDI than DRAMA on the MATTERHORN. We also get a bit of studio mountain for no particular reason. The work is more like Nazzari's melodramas than anything we've seen from it's director and Amadeo is top billed and gets most screen time.

Production values are adequate, with a few attempts at atmosphere as when the mountain men set out at night through the searchlit trees where the (smoke bomb) mist is blowing. The leads register well enough but the support is poor.

Th e presence of members of Pietro Germi's team emphasise the similarity to his work of the day though this one is inferior to that also.

Mes frères et moi
(2021)

One of the more involving accounts of Growing up tough in the projects.
This one is an involving companion piece to Ladji Li's 2019 LES MISERABLES - immigrants struggle while the gendarmes hover round their mass housing. Plausibly eleven year old Maël Rouin Berrandou can't wait to quit school but his three brothers make dodgy role models and their comatose mother in the bedroom needs constant care.

The pressure is to become a pizza delivery boy but, while painting the corridor on a bogus educational leisure project at the school where he's still enrolled, Berrandou encounters Judith (CAMILLE REWINDS) Chemla's small singing class, recognising the Italian opera arias his late father used to play.

Between going look out for drug runs, beach soccer and getting roughed up by his family, our hero edges towards being an Arab Billy Elliot. The plausible surface, engaging characters and inconclusive ending all give this conviction. Despite the grim material it manages to be lively entertainment.

Skillful handling uses available light and real locations effectively giving the impression of a realistic texture.

Oz Land
(2018)

Fellgood romcom with a theme park background.
This one starts as a rather labored re-working of "The Wizard of Oz", gets tired of that and switches to a Japanese WELCOME TO THE STICKS.

It opens with the winning Haru telling us she tells has the perfect life, great home in Tokyo, great boy friend Tomoya Nakamura and a great job in his company - and then she finds herself transferred to their theme park in provincial Kumamoto.

The first thing that happens there is that she and fellow new recruit Amane Okayama get involved in a bomb plot that turns out to be a prank. It ends with her using her martial arts training on the Starman lead of the live stage show to the delight of the audience. This goes with her finding herself assigned to menial work though she's got a degree.

Naturally the fellow workers, who she takes for local buffoons, become winning and her work is actually training in the best Shaolin Temple tradition, as she finds her project she thought supervisor Hidetoshi Nishijima (DRIVE MY CAR) had dismissed, has been commended. Together they master smiling, never running and keeping municipal vehicles off the lot along with collecting lost children and setting up light displays. She even comes through on a night time re-opening of the rides for a delayed bus full of cranky girls. "You made people happy. This is your job."

When she finds Nishijima is about to leave, she comes up with a world record hot air baloon release to send him off. However a suspicious, glasses wearing visitor dumps a pipe bomb in the office, which means Nishijima must take up the balloon to dispose of it - great shot of it passing Haru on the tower.

The bright colors, appealing players and the winningly presented Ozland/Greenland Theme Park background are suitably feel good but the film lacks the convincing connection with reality which would make it involve.

Gyokô no Nikuko-chan
(2021)

Agreeable Japanese toon soaper.
Director Ayumu Watanabe (Kaijû no kodomo / Children of the Sea) heads up the heirs of Studio Ghibli, here deploying people drawn in the style of Takahata's Hôhokekyo tonari no Yamada-kun/ My Neighbors the Yamadas or Omohide poro poro / Only Yesterday against realistic backgrounds for a coming of age soaper - the combination is unfamiliar and works out pretty well.

Boyish Kikuko (voice Cocomi) tells us the story of traveling with her obese mother (Shinobu Ôtake) who pairs with a succession of no hopers. Mother and daughter land up living in a boat moored next to the small harbor cafe where Nikutu has a job. It looks like mum is pairing with another loser, making constant secret 'phone calls.

Like Hana Sugisaki in Her Love Boils Bathwater, which this film's plot echoes at times, Kikuko is having a rough time with school mean girls. The boys are a dumb bunch she passes on her way home, excepting Ninomiya (Natsuki Hanae) whose way of dealing with life is pulling faces when no one is watching. The young people bond.

The justification for animation is in the blob caricature of the gross mother, sometimes squashing other information out of the frame, crying rivers of tears and preparing and eating massive meals.

One of the film's dominant features is this emphasis on food, from the opening with the butcher working on choice cuts through the fried bread breakfasts and celebratory steak and noodle meals. This is not a good movie for vegetarians.

Personally I don't find drawn food all that apertising.

More intriguing is the detail of the tiny port village. This element is dominated by the winning, big-hearted mother, who we keep on expecting to have a heart attack. The plot revelation inverts our estimate of her

These mix with the coming of age theme all to produce something unexpected and winning.

There are better animés about but this one is still pretty good.

L'autre aile
(1923)

French Fly boy silent melodrama
Undistinguished melodrama which occasionally picks up with aviation material.

The opening champagne at the out of doors reception introduces flyer Bertoux who performs airobatics only to crash and burn leaving lover Ferrare to retrieve a flower from the embers.

At her Japanese decorated mansion, she is distraught, the lively society gatherings once held there give way to gloom. She resolves to revenge herself on the skies by becoming an aviator herself.

Our heroine abandons her elegance for a flying suit and goggles. At the airport she encounters pilots Murat and Vanel - who takes an interest in Ferrare and is slapped - vigorously. Vanel's squeeze Harald is scornful. There's some but patting comedy with the worker mechanics.

Ferrare does her initial flight "vers le soleil. Some striking aerial footage suggests a second unit.

Murat and Vanel get into an air field punch-up over her favours The rivalry is developed in uninvolving evening dress scenes in the studio built piano bar shot square on, as a Paris-Nice flight competition is proposed. Skulduggery follows with another crash.

Mustached Vanel's is the only performance to register. The in-camera effects work occasionally gets attention - the superimpositions of the propeller, the iris wipe anticipating PASSAGE to MARSEILLEor the shakey opening of the half frame black matte to reveal the secretary on the phone previously obscured. Nice shot of workers wheeling the big bi-plane out of the hanger. Script, design and cast are undistinguished. This one is mainly a relic.

The tinted copy Streamed on the Paris Cinémathèque Henri site was excellent.

Free Fall
(2021)

London share traders witness 9/11.
Feature production values in this short account of a London bank where the lead's pin has become a bit loose after bad decisions at a time when people are being fired.

However this is September 11 with the TV coverage riveting their attention. Our hero checks with US contacts by 'phone and susses the situation, seeing the potential. He has to convince his boss but a formerly derisive fellow trader urges they follow his lead.

There's a sobering finale.

We've been there before with The BIG SHORT but this one functions in twenty minutes. Not bad.

La fille du garde-barrière
(1975)

Fake Feuillade mixes nostalgia and knockabout.
Plausibly the high point among the attempts to evoke the era of Feuillade's cliff hanger serials - made as you go along plots, chases, painted settings, sheiks and hypocritical officials in top hats.

Recognisable mistakes deliberately reproduced, like the extras from the revolt that hasn't happened yet running outside the window of the bar room, indicate thorough study of the originals with the vintage movie book ending the piece.

We get too much of the determinedly grotesque vintage porno detail like the Gymnase brothel but welcome material like substiuting the bearded whore for the heroine who blindfolds the evil heart transplant surgeon to convince him they've ended their seven year abstinence in marriage.

Is a film where only the girls appear naked but the have false meter long members sexist?

We could have seen more of Le Grand Magic Circus on film. Thechnically adequate for the grotesque tone required.

Pérák: Stín nad Prahou
(2016)

Czech toon super hero.
Sophisticated student movie attempt to revive the Perak franchise centered on a super hero-villain with traits of Fantomas & Spring Healed Jack featured in Czech "Think Magazine."

The Nazis are working in the WW2 Jewish grave yard disinterring the Golem and their commander insists on inserting the control device in it's Star of David brow to give him power. "You're David - not Goliath." He gets splattered promptly. Meanwhile Pérák is having trouble with the girl fighter who tries to take him out with a machine gun.

The Golem goes tramping through walls till leaping Pérák lures him into the river & throws mud in his face (!)

Flash forward and workmen by accident find our hero in the Stalin era.

Good figurative, hard line animation.

Shao nian Ba bi lun
(2015)

Ambitious mainland film.
Handsomely executed and surprisingly critical Chinese film lacks traction where characters and development are indistinct to an outsider.

In Northern China in the early '90s. Dong Zijian (Ash Is the Purest White) the young lead completes high school, seeing the lid blow off a tank at local heavy industry plant, Dai City Tangjing chemical processing, with a worker carried along on it a comic surreal episode out of character with the rest of the film.

The boy's choice is sell cigarettes on the street or follow his father into the forbidding factory. There he finds himself in the crew of Shang Tielong a long time fitter who understands the factory community and Lu joins in the grim work and leisure activities.

He gets his first kiss roughly from the fat factory girl (what happens to her?) and competes with the white collar worker for the attention of appealing plant doctor Li Meng (Touch of Sin) in whose sick bay he stretches out in the pregnancy delivery stirrups. Lu's offer to bring down the suicidal girl worker from the tank scaffolding gets applause but the rival is able to talk her down without the risk. The two men become involved in a weird competition to see who can stay the longest in the communal baths with the heat all the way up.

Surprisingly the lady doctor comes around, in a (tame) make out session in an earthquake. Lu is persuaded to take night school and the girl finds herself at odds with indifferent management and leaves for Shanghai.

All this is nicely filmed in wide screen but often becomes incoherent, at least to an outsider. A few scenes are shot in monochrome for no obvious reason.

More intriguing than the plot is the picture of the joyless dead end employment in the shadow of the piled up coal, cooling towers, grim factory floors and rail tracks we see the late comer bicycle past, unmistakably an early condemnation of the county's fossil fuel industries, placing it along side Blind Shaft and Thin Ice Black Coal.

Yu shi shang tong ju
(2011)

Glossy but under scripted Beijing lightweight.
A film about the (2011) Chinese fashion industry is bound to have curiosity value at least - well no actually. There's one runway show that we don't get a good look at and magazine spreads that we never see are constantly being prepared. What we do get is a formulaic plot with a detour via JERRY MAGUIRE.

Vic Chou is a star of the Beijing fashion magazine industry (we suppose they do have one) Designers fawn over him and they are going to send him to Milan this year. This is a bit much for his boss, veteran Alan Tam (ARMOR OF GOD) who fires him on a whim. Chou storms out asking his associates to join him in a new venture but only boyish cute Vivian Hsu will be in it.

He recruits a new team from under used workers and competes, losing to Tam until the inevitable up swing - dancing in the street follows.

There's one quite accomplished urban luxury montage early on, the selection of filming locales is often striking and the leads are a good looking couple who suggest potential that the film fails to use. For the rest the determined glossiness is just for show, not connected to any story elements.

Assistant Wives
(1927)

Top silent two reeler.
Clever & funny Silent comedy short.

Charley is in boss Pallette's office sitting in the chair ( cf. Cantinflas in El MAGO) and running through A list of demands not knowing Eugene has come in.

The upshot is Pallette invited for diner with the woman from the flapjack joint opposite the office rung in for Charley's wife.

Drab staging but the combination of Roach, Chase and McCarey produce an item in the top of the range for silent comedy shorts.

Fool's Paradise
(1921)

Vintage De Mille - that's entertainment.
While Cecil B. De Mille could be ponderous and simple minded - think the first 10 COMMANDMENTS or THE PLAINSMAN - he occasionally had the knack of adding enough self mockery into his work to make it fly. I though it was the contribution of the writers on THE CRUSADES and UNION PACIFIC but here we get it in a 1921 movie with an obsessive poet whose tribute gives the woman he idolises the giggles, a floozie whose attempts to go Florence Nightingale have her send for a cook book and a star dancer whose presentation is as ridiculous as her admirer's poems.

Put them in oil rush El Paso and equally art directed Bali and provide a plot that Chaplin would re-cycle in CITY LIGHTS. What's not to love.

We get the swarming crowd scenes that De Mille featured (was he working with Richard Rosson yet?) and some remarkable effects work along the way.

Conrad Nagel gives a career best performance, doing his part with absolute seriousness which plays off the film's excesses. What's missing? Well another great score by Neil Brand which also tells us we'll have a better time if we don't laugh. It shapes the presentation impeccably.

Der Tiger von Eschnapur
(1938)

Trash movie classic
The succeeding versions of The TIGER VON ESCHNAPUR are milestones in the development of movies. This is the middle one, following the silent Joe May got away from Fritz Lang which fitted into the Line of CALIGARI and METROPOLIS and preceding Lang's entry in the Eurotrash cycle of the sixties. It was a major hit for the Third Reich film industry and one of their most ambitious undertakings. It's pretty hard to look at it without remembering the politics.

This 1938 version is lifted by extensive location filming - snapping crocodiles, Maharadscha Philip Dorn / Frits van Dongen and so blonde Kitty Jantzen riding in the triumphal parade, locals pelting the cage of the captured killer tiger, two elephants battling it out as an entertainment.

The drama that this is slotted into, played by blacked up Europeans, is another matter. Dorn understandably takes a dim view of Russian intruder Gustav Diessel making off with so gorgeous Maharani La Jana and once the couple become fugitives in Europe he mounts murderous revenge.

Unaware of this, German architect Hans Stüwe is commissioned to build a new city - waving of blue prints and one shot of workers pounding earth by hand). Think Chandigarh. The work includes a tomb for the still living La J.

Throw in Theo Lingren's comic relief, La Jana's splendid hoochy coochy dancing and lots of extras in turbans in elaborate studio decors and you have the Maria Montez formula which will flourish in Hollywood post WW2

The dance numbers are highlights of all three versions. The theater fire which ends part one coming on top of La Jana's Indira routine is a hard act to follow and while the production values persist part two is a bit on the scrappy side.

This chaotic exotic-erotic adventure movie gives anything in it's area a run for the money. You watch it with a mix of sit back and enjoy it pleasure and unease about the underlying attitudes.

Kobanzame zenpen
(1948)

Ambitious WW2 era Samurai movie.
Remarkable film for Japan in 1941 - or by any standard. The panoramas of armed men marching in the distance must have called for immense man power at a time when this was hard to come by. Not easy to see why this was a war time priority when it's picture of the military is far from attractive.

The peasants gather in the studio village street uncertain about what is happening till a lone horseman rides through. "What war?" Pan down a cliff reveals the lines of moving warriors. There is a spy about so the wagon crew are suspicious of Yamada when she shows up alone. "Hyachi found a beaurty."

The span broadens with the with attention switching between the group of workers and the rival lords strategising on maps, where the black markers indicating dead soldiers had been spread.

Their lord stirs the admiration of his men by not attacking while sickness strikes his opponents.

With his Ninja hiding among lily pads to get intelligence one leader plans a secret move by night with his opposite number determined to out manoeuvre him.

The actual battle in part two is an anticlimax after this material, unclear and finally a disappointment.

Frequent great panoramas - the shot that opens out to show lines of warriors crossing roads ranged to the horizon, the tracking shot past ranks of warriors holding their spears at attention as their instructions are given, troops passing through the trees behind the main action their samurai banners lowered. The images of half naked men advancing through the forest trees anticipate Rashomon. It sustains it's two hours.

The 1561 battle is celebrated in Japanese culture (and numerous films including Kagemusha with the shadow warrior on his stool glimpsed towards the end as hostilities overtake him) What we see builds impressively. Apparently both sides claimed to have won in real life.

Pity the battle when it comes is so tame and small scale after the great set up. The film shapes up for being outstanding without getting there. It still remains evidence that Kinugasa is grossly under valued in English language criticism.

Fräulein Raffke
(1923)

Unremarkable German silent.
We always hope that the unfamiliar titles spacing out the filmographies of people we admire will prove to be masterpieces. Well this one has Werner Krauss going all out as a business Czar with a desk full of telephones and Hans Albers coming out of it rather better as a seedy monocle wearing aristocrat who sees Krauss' fortune as the pot of gold while the millionaire thinks wedding of his daughter Lee Parry (Mrs Eichberg) to Albers will give him entry to the nobility.

The opening gives it a chance - lines of flunkies, bathing beauties, a palais de danse and lots of acting from Krauss continually adjusting his comb over. However this soon gives way to a "never darken my door" weepy.

Parry suffers in a variety of outsize hats and the plot fails to provide any surprises. Quite ambitious with big none too imaginative sets and hoards of extras, this one has community with the contemporary melodramas of Michael Curtiz and Cecil B. De Mille - there's even a Golden Calf ball but, at this length, it's not as much fun.

Sword of Honour
(1939)

Describing a working class cadet at Sandhust raises themes and issues in Elvey films.
Maurice Elvey salutes the flag - literally. The Union Jack is forever being run up and fluttering in the breeze.

Plot has third generation soldier Geoffrey Toone leaving the home of grandfather Gordon Begg, proud of being at Mafeking and dad Wally Patch who is amazed to be at the station sending his son off for officer training, as Geof takes the train for Berkshire and the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst.

Of course our hero aces all the training but he has a flaw. He won't join the riding exercises. They all think it's funk.

Conviction is already strained and doesn't get better when things are elaborated with the romantic sub plot where he's out biking and finds glamorous Sally Gray in the mud, thrown by her horse. To stop the animal's rich new owner shooting it Geof undertakes to train it for the Grand National, while he's still doing Sando.

The officers spot him being brought back in the rich man's car and don't elevate him despite his good grades. "A boy can't expect a Rolls Royce, the Grand National and a promotion, all in one term."

Toone needs an act of heroism to get the his sword of honor

The film is an implausible promo for the British way with WW2 approaching. A working class boy gets to achieve among the striped blazer titled heirs and comic toffs - cf. ENGLISH WITHOUT TEARS and later The GUINEA PIG. It has all the British scene elements of Elvey's films - the pubs, the hunt pack, traditional music, military rituals.

They keep on hammering the new democracy, as with soldier Gramps palling with the Major General who led the relief of Mafeking, coming across as propaganda content. Still it does hold attention, propped up by OK cast and production values.

Father's Close Shave
(1920)

Part of a series of Jiggs & Maggie two reeler.
This soso adaptation of the newspaper strip cartoon, directed by a writer on HANDS Up and A GIRL IN EVERY PORT, builds to a chase - the barber after a customer etc. It made the cut in a series on silent comedy mounted at Pordenone in 2016.

Early Laura La Plante.

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